Aftermath of disaster


January 31, 2002


            The rain didn't start until late and not so heavily as the weather people forecasted. I made my usual trip to the train station to write, and met Kelly there -- he on his way to his financial job in Manhattan.

            Years from now, he can tell his grandchildren about his surviving the World Trade Center attack -- although is tale is largely one of smoke and flight. It is an interesting facet of a largely boring existence, and he complains about having to interview bankers.

            "They are either boring or secretive," he tells me.

            He talked about some science fiction writer and some obscure reference to an invasion of Manchurian style of writing. Neither of us could make out what was meant.

            I'm still enraged at the City of Hoboken for its game of musical chairs. The newest law will make it impossible for a worker in this city to park. I suppose the city's parking authority never did have much respect for working people, little realizing how much we do towards making Hoboken bearable.

            The big news of the day, however, is whether or not the daily newspaper will survive. Caren, my editor, e-mailed me the AP account of its last days of negotiating. The 135-year old paper lost $4 million last year, and is seeking to get compromises from its unions. Editorial and clerical agreed, the truck drivers -- who are part of the Teamsters -- refused. The Teamsters are gearing up for a national negotiation and are unlikely to budge to save 11 jobs in Jersey City. If the Journal goes down, our lives here will change radically.

            Meanwhile, I still recover from the aftermath of my mother's death. In a year that saw the World Trade Center disaster, the death of a Beatle and my mother's passing, I feel overwhelmed by grief. How depressing the world seems when viewed from the end of life. In going over photographs of my family, I saw the great hope in the younger pictures that was not realized by the adults. It scares me to think whole lives pass without realizing their dreams, and how some people seem devoid of dreams altogether. What were my mother's ambitions? Did George Harrison find less significance in his life after the breakup of the Beatles? Did any of those working in the World Trade Center have secret desires cut short by the collapse of the buildings?

            I talked to Dottie and Ted last night. They were worried about me. I suppose they expected me to display the usual signs of mourning, when the ache I feel is deeper and hidden, causing pain at a level that fails to show on the surface. If I think too much about my relationship with my mother, about the failed opportunities, about the foolish things I did and said, I hurt. But at other times, life goes on without much thinking, and I seem cold about her dying, even to myself.

            In a strange way, the three disasters seem connected, part of some larger transition that I lack perspective to appreciate. If life has meaning in and of itself, if fate and God play roles in our lives as significantly as we are taught as children, then the events are connected, and I can expect the repercussions of them to hit me shortly.

            In the meantime, all I really want to do is take a walk in the rain, like I used to do when I needed to think about something sad. Maybe that's what I'll do.

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